January 23, 2013 Board of Trustees Report
President Guy Heston reports on behalf of the Alumni Council and alumnus Robert Strazzarino explains how he launched his entrepreneurial career while a student at California State University, Chico.
Now for the report of the CSU Alumni Council, Guy Heston.
Thank you, Chair Linscheid.
I am incredibly pleased to state that California State University alumni now number 2.8 million. Nearly 10% of California’s workforce are CSU graduates. Our alumni fill the critical workforce needs of the state—teachers, nurses, engineers, public servants, and so many others. But our graduates are more than just their profession—they are also creators. Many entrepreneurial CSU alumni go on to invent new products, found their own companies and create new jobs for their fellow Californians.
The Alumni Council is very pleased today to introduce you to one such alumnus. Robert Strazzarino honed his entrepreneurial skills while studying computer science at CSU Chico, where he graduated in 2006. While a student, he started a company he now presides over as CEO—College Scheduler LLC. He is a model of how self-determination combined with the opportunities provided by a CSU education and the desire to give back to his university create the synergy that has powered California for decades. Robert would like to share some of his story with you today.
Thank you. Starting in 2002, California State University, Chico has provided me with a direct path to becoming an entrepreneur. At 17 years old, I was lucky enough to receive two academic scholarships from Chico State which were a major factor in deciding to attend the institution. I received $12,000 from the President's Scholar program and another $4,000 from the computer science department.
Upon beginning my very first computer science class, I knew immediately that I had made the right decision. Rather than learning mostly theory, we were developing small, useful software projects from the get-go and learning at a rapid pace. In high school I had learned some programming skills on my own; however, I believe that taking an actual class in college pushed my learning to the next level. There’s nothing like the challenge of going for an 'A' to help you learn more quickly than teaching yourself on your own.
During my sophomore year, while planning classes for an upcoming semester, I came up with a piece of software in my apartment which I named the "Wildcat Scheduler," after the Chico State Wildcats. To describe the software in one sentence: students open up a webpage, enter in the classes they want to take next semester, times they can’t take class such as an athletic practice or a job, and in one button click the software generates fully pre-made schedules that are open which they can register for in PeopleSoft. With over half of the student body using the software by my senior year (as well as many academic advisors), Chico State purchased a license of the software and my startup company began. Today, we serve 48 institutions around the country including The Ohio State University, Penn State, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and three of our own CSUs—Sacramento, Chico and Dominguez Hills. Students at these institutions are now taking more classes and increasing their credit hours every semester. As a result, students are now graduating faster than before and academic advisors are able to save time while serving more students.
Due to the quality of my education at Chico State, I make it a point to hire from the institution. Five of my 6 employees are all Chico State graduates, ranging in ages from 21 years old to 34 years old. I strongly believe that students come out of the institution ready to work in the real world, and they are immediately productive. In my graduating class in computer science, every one of my friends received a job offer. It was a non-issue getting hired and it shows that my company is not alone in wanting to recruit Chico State grads—excuse me, California State University grads.
The Chico State Internship Center also played a vital role in developing my career and experience. During my junior year, I landed a spot in the Honors Internship Program for the FBI in Washington, DC. After an extensive background check (along with a very fun polygraph experience), I had a top secret clearance for the summer on the East Coast. I was able to gain unique perspectives into how a large organization is run which continue to help me to this day. I was also able to run through a special agent training simulation as well as shoot some very exclusive firearms inside the FBI headquarters shooting range. It is an experience that I will always remember. The internship center also placed me at Chevron Corporation’s worldwide headquarters in San Ramon, California. In this position, I honed my skills even further and took home many experiences that I use to run my startup today.
By attending CSU Chico instead of an expensive private college, I was able to save enough money to start College Scheduler by myself. I have no investors; I own 100% of the company. I'm able to aggressively pour money back into the company by not having any student debt. Consequently, our company attended 32 different trade shows in 2012, meeting registrars and other administrators all over the country.
CSU Chico continues to enhance my professional career to this day. I speak in multiple classrooms about my story and have even brought my sales team in to give first-hand tips and experiences to the students. The Collegiate Entrepreneurship Association at Chico State is a club headed up by a professor named Peter Straus who is also a successful entrepreneur himself. His club is a perfect environment to foster student startups. During one of my talks there I met a very talented student named Andrew who I thought had a fantastic startup idea. I ended up becoming an angel investor in Andrew's company along with another entrepreneur in Chico. Andrew’s company is currently bringing in more than $5 million per year in revenue. I own 3% of Andrew's startup and at 24 years old himself, I consider him one of the biggest success stories in recent Chico State history.
I'd like to wrap up by thanking the California State University system for the success that I have experienced so far in my career. Between my education, the talented people I've hired, and the experiences the internship center provided me, I was carved into a prime candidate to run a high tech startup. And finally, I do fully intend to repay that academic scholarship, along with a very generous bonus. Thank you for all your time and support.
Robert, thank you very much for sharing your experience with us today and for being such a generous supporter of Chico State, the California State University, and today’s students.
The Alumni Council has several upcoming events, the results of which I look forward to sharing with you in March, including:
- The third-annual CSU New York/Tri-State Alumni Reception which will be on March 7 at the University Club of New York. And we anticipate for the third year in a row it will be a sell-out.
- The Alumni Council’s spring meeting will take place at CSU Monterey Bay March 22-23. The professional development portion of the conference will focus on major trends affecting advancement and alumni relations and how to position ourselves for the future.
In closing, I would like to offer a very warm welcome to Chancellor White. The Alumni Council very much looks forward to working with you.
Thank you, Chair Linscheid, this concludes my report.
Thank you, Guy. Appreciate it, Robert.